What is a Rebus?

November, 2016

People sometimes ask me what is a rebus? Why this fascination with rebuses? Well, nowadays we can say, think of “America Runs on Dunkin” or “I Heart New York” (designed by the famous American Graphic Designer, Milton Glaser), as the form of the rebus has been used in visual communication for many years now. I think at this point rebuses are a fairly familiar—if not recognizable—form of communication.

To me, a rebus is a kind of visual puzzle, a mix of words and images to convey a message. Familiar to many of us from early childhood when we were learning how to read, very often one would come across a phrase/passage/story told using the form of a rebus. One of my favorites that I saw recently at a parking lot on the Princeton University campus was this gem with an image of Prince (the musician) with the word “ton,” which combined to make “Princeton.” And so, for subject matter of what to print with the letterpress, I turned to familiar and well-known quotations and phrases to be reinterpreted through the form of a rebus.

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